GLOBAL phosphate fertiliser prices are expected to remain at relatively low levels going into the Australian autumn sowing season.But urea prices were forecast to rise slightly as northern hemisphere farmers build up stocks in readiness for their planting during the same period.
In its latest quarterly fertiliser outlook, Rabobank said market fundamentals suggested prices would remain "relatively balanced'' during the first quarter of 2013, with some chance of phosphate product prices actually falling.
The bank said current factors affecting pricing included fertiliser distributors liquidating excess stocks from last season in anticipation of further drops in prices for some product types.
It also said the European financial crisis was now entering its third year and local farmers were holding off on purchases so far out from sowing.
Rabobank said the outlook for fertiliser use was tempered by the global challenge to rebuild grain stocks, particularly in relation to corn.
Record plantings of corn were expected around the world this season but fertiliser requirements in the US were unknown after last year's drought.
"Uncertainty remains as to how depleted nutrients in US soils are after last year's drought and what moisture level will be achieved in the spring,'' the bank said.
Rabobank said higher grain prices were not expected to have a large impact on phosphate fertiliser consumption.
"Over the past year, farmers have benefitted from the elevated agricommodity prices and used their increased purchasing power to restore phosphate levels in the soil with higher than normal application rates,'' it said.
"As a result, there is less need for consecutive seasons of higher than normal application, given elevated application rates will not raise productivity further.
"Therefore, farmers can be expected to apply phosphate at a lower level, sufficient to meet offtake by the crop.''
The bank said global phosphate fertiliser prices were likely to be subdued during the first quarter of 2013.